Winning Marketing Concepts Sell Benefits, not Features

Why is developing and launching a new product or service so hard?  It takes time and resources, both human and financial, to make it happen.  According to various research studies, between 50 and 80 percent of new products launched each year fail, costing companies and shareholders billions of dollars. This does not mean the only reason a product or service fails is the concept, but a winning concept is essential cornerstone for all successful marketing communications.  Without it, you’re simply using resources with little to no productive results in the market.

A concept is fundamentally a representation of an idea for a product or service. With a definition that simple, it might seem surprising that so few professionals can craft a great concept.  One of the biggest challenges in creating concepts is making sure the customer is the focus and offers a benefit that is meaningful and relevant.  All too often those developing new ideas sell features of the offering, rather than a true customer benefit. Customers buy benefits, not features – so find a benefit with a strong hook.

Two fundamental types of concepts exist:  core idea concepts and positioning concepts. Most concepts comprise some elements of each.  A core idea concept simply describes the product or service. For the most part, it is a relatively concise description of what is being offered to the end buyer.  The purpose of a core idea concept is to determine whether the idea is of interest to the end buyer. Typically, a core idea concept does not attempt to sell any benefits to the potential buyer, but simply elaborates on all the key features the product or service offers.  In contrast, a positioning concept attempts to sell the benefits of the product or service to a potential buyer. The positioning concept must tap into real consumer beliefs that provide a relevant context for the product idea. A positioning concept focuses on the rational or emotional benefits a buyer will receive or feel by using the product.  Your positioning concept identifies the winning customer approach – the foundation for a communications strategy used to execute your advertising, PR, sales materials, website, Facebook page, etc.

Benefits come in several shapes and sizes.  It is important to find that one type that best leverages customer needs and perceptions of your brand or company while still being unique and ownable amongst your competitors.  It is generally easiest to divide your potential benefits into four categories as follows:

  • Equity—derived from the heritage benefit of the brand (i.e. Robitussin®  tablets for the same relief you trust in a new form)
  • Efficacy—grounded in formula- or service-based claims (Tylenol® gives you effective pain relief that won’t irritate your stomach)
  • Experience—based on appealing to the senses of sight, smell, and touch (i.e. Use Downy®to get softness and a freshness in your washables)
  • Emotion—based on personal feelings about the process or final outcome  (i.e. Send Hallmark®cards when you care enough to send the very best)

Now, that you understand the benefit, the next question is generally  “What do I do with all my features?”  The features of your product and services are used to convince your target customer that your benefit is true and believable.   For example, Dial has a line of hand soap called “Dial Complete”.  The product promise (or benefit) is that you can protect yourself and your family from germs by washing with with Dial Complete.    The features that support these claims are that it kills 99.9% of germs and is the #1 doctor recommended antibacterial soap.   The idea of protecting your family is a bigger, more important claim for the target audience – moms.    This is manifested with the selling line of “protect yourself”.  Even though the manufacturer likely loves and is proud of the bold support claims, that’s what they are – support for the benefit.  The active ingredients can probably be put in another competitor’s products and they could make the same statement on 99.9% germ kill, but Dial already owns this greater piece of consumer real estate.

The same is true for you, your business, your brand, your product or your service.   Sell a meaningful customer benefit and you’ll have a lot more marketplace traction.  You’ll better own a position in the marketplace that can be leveraged through all your communication touchpoints.


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